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In 1993, the UN's human rights committee declared that article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights "protects theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs, as well as the right not to profess any religion or belief".The committee further stated that "the freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief necessarily entails the freedom to choose a religion or belief, including the right to replace one's current religion or belief with another or to adopt atheistic views".
The word Hitler used in this speech, "Gottlosenbewegung", means "Godless Movement" in German, and it refers to the communist freethought movement, though it might not refer to atheism in general. Evans wrote that, by 1939, 95% of Germans still called themselves Protestant or Catholic, while 3.5% were so called "gottgläubig" (lit.
Atheist Charles Bradlaugh was elected as a Member of the British Parliament in 1880.
He was denied the right to affirm rather than swear his oath of office, and was then denied the ability to swear the oath as other Members objected that he had himself said it would be meaningless.
These included the priest Giulio Cesare Vanini who was strangled and burned in 1619 and the Polish nobleman Kazimierz Łyszczyński who was executed in Warsaw, as well as Etienne Dolet, a Frenchman executed in 1546.
Though heralded as atheist martyrs during the nineteenth century, recent scholars hold that the beliefs espoused by Dolet and Vanini are not atheistic in modern terms.
Modern theories of constitutional democracy assume that citizens are intellectually and spiritually autonomous and that governments should leave matters of religious belief to individuals and not coerce religious beliefs using sanctions or benefits.
The constitutions, human rights conventions and the religious liberty jurisprudence of most constitutional democracies provide legal protection of atheists and agnostics.In addition, freedom of expression provisions and legislation separating church from state also serve to protect the rights of atheists.As a result, open legal discrimination against atheists is not common in most Western countries.On the contrary, in Greece, the right-wing New Democracy government stated that "the Greek people have a right to know whether Mr.Tsipras is an atheist", citing their political opponent's irreligiosity as a reason he should not be elected, even though they granted that "it is his right".Signatories to the convention are barred from "the use of threat of physical force or penal sanctions to compel believers or non-believers" to recant their beliefs or convert.